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When Sophie walked into the kitchen on Sunday morning to find me at the stove cooking four pans of risotto simultaneously she did not realize that she had implicated herself in a very serious, life-altering double blinded randomized control trial.  In fact, I’m pretty sure she didn’t even bat an eye.

Although she did look at me suspiciously when I handed her a waiver to sign.  And asked her to put her hand over her heart and swear on an uncharacteristically cute butternut squash that she was not actually a spy working for a competing risotto rice reviewer and that she would answer all of my questions as truthfully as possible.  To the best of her abilities.  So help her god.

Hey, if you’re going to do a double-blinded randomized control trial in the safety of your own kitchen.  You have to do it right.  No reason why it shouldn’t comply with FDA standards.  That is my motto.

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At least, such is what I thought when I agreed to do a comprehensive review of four different kinds of risotto rice for MarxFoods.  Not only was it an opportunity eat massive amounts of risotto all in the name of good honest research.  But it would also help me to hone my clinical trial skillz.  (And give me the authority to walk into any Michelin starred restaurant and proffer my opinion on exactly which rice the James Beard award-winning chef should have used.  Not gonna lie.  That was totally an incentive.)

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The first step in any good clinical trial is to define your primary endpoint.  In this case, what parameters was I going to use to decide what makes a given risotto rice “good”.  Was I going for texture, flavor, color, mouth-feel?

It’s very important to do this before  the trial is performed and also very important not to change it later on when you realize that, actually, the pharmaceutical you are testing does not do anything to cure lung cancer but it did somehow clear up your patients’ male pattern baldness.  No, you may not change this into a hair growth study.  You are stuck with curing cancer.  Deal with it.

Alright.  So.  Risotto for me is all about the texture.  Creamy, starchy, almost melt-in-your-mouth rice kernels that seem to have disintegrated almost into one entity but also still maintain their own integrity as individuals.  It’s a fine balance, to be sure, but one that any good risotto rice has to hold up to.  Flavor is important, of course, but decidedly not what I wanted to test in this study.  Moving on.

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Experimental design.  When doing a double blinded randomized control trial, you need the proper controls and variables.  In this case, the variable or changing parameter was going to be the risotto rice that was used – one of either arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano, or integrale.  The controlled or unchanging parameter was going to be flavor.  I couldn’t have any of my testers being skewed by liking or disliking a given flavor.  Thus, I prepared each and every risotto the exact same way.  Within the limits of human error, of course.  Nobody’s perfect.  Not even an up-and-coming physician scientist such as myself.

Alright so here is how it went down.  Four risotto rices.  Four batches of risotto.  All plated in an identical manner (except for the color of the cocktail glasses.  It would be much more preferable to use glasses that are all the same color.  But sometimes you just have to make do with what you’ve got.  Just don’t tell the FDA.) such that neither Sophie nor Anu had any idea which was which.

(And yes, if this were truly double blinded, I would not have known either.  But let’s be real.  My short term memory is not what it used to be.  So I don’t think it’s really an issue.)

They came.  They ate.  They rated.

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And thus, it is with no further ado that I present to you.  The consensus.

We all unanimously declared the vialone nano rice to be our favorite.  This rice has extremely small grains and give off starch almost immediately upon being doused with broth, making for an extremely creamy and glutinous risotto.  Just the way I like it.

Next up was the classic arborio.  Arborio is just so easy to work with and is pretty no-fail when it comes to risotto-making.  It gives off just the perfect amount of starch, in my opinion, to make a risotto that really holds itself together.  Not as much starch as the vialone nano, but a good amount.

Although carnaroli rice is purported to absorb more flavor and release more starch than arborio, we did not find this to be the case.  Hence why it was less of a favorite.  While it did hold flavor very well, the risotto never reached that creamy consistency that we desired and expected from a good risotto.

Last and, unfortunately, least came the integrale brown rice.  I wanted this to win. I really and truly did, ever the whole grain fanatic that I am.  And while this most certainly retained the most of the flavor out of all the rices, it gave off the least starch and so I felt like I was eating rice soup while eating it.  Which is fine.  If you want to be eating rice soup.  But usually, when I’m in the mood for risotto…that’s the last thing that I want.

So there you have it.  My first double blinded randomized control trial.  A veritable success.  Next up, trying to figure out a way to apply this in the clinical setting.  Can eating massive amounts of risotto prevent cancer?  A prospective cohort study in the making.  Stay tuned.

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Sun-Dried Tomato and Thyme Risotto
Serves 4, adapted from La Belle Cuisine

2 quarts broth (chicken or veggie)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup risotto rice (arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano, or integrale)
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
4 sun-dried tomatoes

1. Heat the broth in a medium to large pot on the stove, allowing it to stay at a simmer.

2. In a large non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil.  Add the diced onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add in the risotto rice and cook for 2 minutes, constantly stirring.

3. Add the simmering broth to the rice in half cup-ish increments, only more after the last addition has almost completely evaporated, continuously stirring the entire time.  After you add the first batch of broth, add the leaves off of four thyme sprigs to the pan.  Cook the rice in this way until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and mix in the parmesan cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve in bowls or in cocktail glasses (what, I have to use them for something!).  Garnish with sun-dried tomatoes.

I am submitting this to the Hearth and Soul Bloghop!

**Disclaimer – Although I was given these rice samples from Marxfoods for free, I received no other compensation for doing this review and my ideas, thoughts, and opinions on the products are all my own.

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You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at http://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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96 Responses to Sun-Dried Tomato and Thyme Risotto…A Guide To Risotto Rice

  1. Katerina says:

    It is always very interesting to see how taste varies from one person to the other. That’s the beauty of humans, their diversity. I loved your little experiment.

  2. Lea Ann says:

    I’m sticking with arborio rice. (no pun intended) I’m impressed. The sun-dried tomatoe flavor sounds wonderful. I’ve only made risotto once and you’ve inspired me to try it again soon.

  3. Wouldn’t we all have loved to be mad scientists in your kitchen. I work for a doc who does clinical trials so love the experiment aspect.

  4. Eliana says:

    The next time you do experiments like this can I come over? I love risotto but have yet to make ti for myself. Now I know which rice to go out there and find for it. yey!

  5. janet says:

    I love it, Joanne! Bring on the RCT! Next time, it totally needs to be double-blinded. 🙂

  6. Pam says:

    Fabulous experiment!! On a note about the brown rice…Bittman says to whirl it around a few seconds in the food processor to nick it up a bit, and then use it in a risotto…in case you were wanting to try another experiment!

  7. Dawn says:

    I wish I could find brown rice arborino but so far I haven’t been able to find it. I will probably buy it on line (although I’ve got a whole container of the white stuff to splurge on). Love these flavors together!

  8. Pam says:

    Way to go! You are definitely a whiz in the kitchen! I love risotto but am almost embarrassed to say I’ve never made it. This sounds like the recipe to try! Thanks!

  9. What an awesome test! I’ve always wondered how they all stack up! Now I want to see a chocolate taste test!

  10. pajamachef says:

    Hilarious! I love your writing, and your trial 🙂 How fun!

  11. I’ll be a “tester” in your kitchen any day! I haven’t made risotto in a while but now (after reading this) I won’t be able to rid it from my mind all day and may have to make some tonight!

  12. nice review! I’m cooking up my rice today.

  13. Mo Diva says:

    if im in the neighborhood i would be glad to be a guinea pig! just sayin.
    those look wonderful. I usually stick to arborio since its easily accessible in my ghetto hood. but i liked the comparison.
    I also loved the plating!

  14. I love that you serve risotto in glasses…look delicious and chic.

  15. Haha, I love all the research chatter 🙂 I made risotto last night, so look for it in an upcoming post! I used plain old Arborio. I am amazed you were able to make 4 pots without burning– risotto is finicky like that!!

  16. claire says:

    the risotto looks gorgeous in the glasses! mmm i am craving this, such a great post!

  17. Amy says:

    I make risotto a lot. A LOT. I even did a silly (not very good) “how to” video many moons ago, but we won’t discuss that.

    I’ve never used anything other than Arborio. I’ve also never served it in awesome cocktail glasses. I’m feeling very pedestrian right now…

    More importantly, where’s the sign up sheet for the next experimental blind taste test?

  18. You are too much. And I am now craving risotto. Not sure I should thank you for that.

  19. elra says:

    How beautiful Joanne, especially serve on that decorative glasses.

  20. Mary says:

    It’s not hard to tell you are a scientist :-). This is the kind of thing my husband would do. Having said that, I’m delighted you shared your results with us. It certainly makes my life easier. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings…Mary

  21. Risotto looks nice. But the serving size it a tad too small for me. 😉

  22. This is a wonderful trial. It had to be fun to do, eating all that risotto. I love risotto, and this recipe is one that sounds like hubby will like.

  23. Luigi says:

    I WANT TO LIVE NEXT DOOR!! (for many reasons lol) NO REALLY!!! lol.

  24. sweetlife says:

    Oh what a fun experiment, what a delish day that was…oh I was pulling for the brown rice also…thanks for the great reviews..I love your presentation,..lucky sphie..

    sweetlife

  25. ann says:

    Joanne, I love the way you write. fantastic!

  26. Big Dude says:

    Very nice – I’ve never made risotto, but must try it soon.

  27. That Girl says:

    Can I please volunteer for the next risotto trials????? PUH-LEASE?

  28. aipi says:

    Have seen and heard about Risotto so much but you probably won’t believe I have never either made it or even tasted it… guess its about time..yours look perfect, nicely presented!

    US Masala

  29. Victoria says:

    I usually use arborio (just seems more readily available) so I’m glad to see it was in 2nd place!! I have been craving risotto for the LONGEST time, but haven’t made it because a) it’s never as good the next day, b) I don’t have a microwave here, which is the only way I could imagine reaheating it (stove and oven might be weird) and c) I realize I could just fry risotto patties, but I need to come to terms with the fact that I will only eat it once when I make it, the way I intended to eat it.

  30. OK just finished mine and has similar results as you (going to have Shawn do a second testing later and will post Friday). BUT here’s a sneak peak… I found that the brown rice took about 10 minutes longer to cook than the others. And in the last 5 minutes it actually did absorb all the liquid and get creamy! It ended up being my favorite of the four, followed by the vialone.

  31. Kristen says:

    Having done the exact experiment, I can say that we agreed that the integrale was the hardest rice to like. It was a shame, wasn’t it. However, having said that, I had different results completely. Maybe it’s a Northeast vs. Southwest thing.

  32. Tasha says:

    Four batches of risotto? That’s dedication. I guess I’m just lazy, because I haven’t been able to get myself to make one lately, even though I’ve been wanting it. Thanks for sharing your highly scientific research results with us!

  33. Nutmeg Nanny says:

    What a nice review! I have yet to make risotto. I’m not sure why I haven’t. I think I need to get on that….

  34. I’ve never seen the vialone nano type but now I’ll have to look for it! I love good risotto! Thankfully, the easy-to-find arborio came in second.

    This was definitely worth to effort to get the results, though!

  35. Swathi says:

    Nice review. I need to make some risotto now. You teased my taste buds.

  36. Elizabeth says:

    Whoa! If you can successfully cook 4 batches of risotto simultaneously, you have the skill to conduct a full-length opera at the Met. (Didn’t Verdi write an opera called “Risotto?”) Brava.

  37. So glad you posted this. I am making risotto tomorrow night!! Perfect timing.

  38. teresa says:

    risotto-off, love it! i need to try the violone nano rice, i’ve never even heard of it, but being a risotto fan i have no doubt i would love it. the glasses that you served it in are so pretty!

  39. Pam says:

    Nicley done. I am sad and a bit embarrassed to say that I have never made risotto before. Now I know which risotto rice to use if I ever attempt it. Yours looks perfect!

  40. What a fun experiment! One that ends in tasting something so delicious is always worth the trouble. . .

  41. Faith says:

    You are so much fun in the kitchen, Joanne! I could happily spend days performing food experimentation, especially if the end results are as gorgeous as this! 😉

  42. What an awesome idea!! I seriously love that you did this. And I am ALWAYS looking for an excuse to eat more risotto (not that I need excuses here), so please invite me the next time you need some participants in your studies!!

    Sues

  43. Juliana says:

    Joanne, love your post…I never made risotto…and it is so interesting since having a Taiwanese/Brazilian background rice is one of the main ingredients in our diet…and yet have never made risotto. Love the way that you serve them and the tips for the different type of rice, I sure will take in consideration when making risotto…hopefully soon 🙂

  44. You are a true professional, going to such lengths for your craft. I think they should give you your own show where you do Pepsi challenges with all sorts of food products 🙂

  45. Wowow, thats so cool!
    i love this kinda research , way way muc and specially to sit down after that and indulge in all the deliciousness!
    I love how Sophie get featured on ur already famous blog, if she had a blog ,she’d be famous by now too and love getting to know ur wonderful flat mate!
    The pics look lovely and by now the lovely gang at Marx foods musb donuts about u!

  46. I love it! All in the name of science. Good to know how the rices rate. I am lucky to find arborio here, sometimes bags just say “Italian rice” and I have no idea what that means. But good to know that the arborio that I can get rates a two on the esteemed Joanne’s roomate scale!

  47. how pretty is that.. you serve it in a glass:) gorgeous!

  48. Simply Life says:

    ha, this is one trial I’d love to be a part of!

  49. Ooo lah la..so much for risotto…must be one of your favorites…wish i cud taste one without having to slog out 🙂
    I loved your review n presentatio!

  50. david says:

    Great writing, pics and the recipe’s wow. Sun dried tomatoes was new for me.

  51. Great post! You’re so dedicated! 😀

  52. I must admit I was disappointed by carnaroli, preferring the arborio I found grown in Texas~ I guess it is all a matter of taste!
    This is a risotti recipe I would love to sample>

  53. OohLookBel says:

    I’d love to try some vialone nano rice – all I ever use is arborio because that’s all I can find. Thanks for the comparison and droolworthy risottos 🙂

  54. girlichef says:

    Cool! What a fun trial 🙂 That first rice, the winner, sounds soooo awesome…like a bit of risotto heaven! Of course, they all sound pretty good in their own rite. You and Marx Foods are BFF’s, aren’t you? Man, you and Christo…otherwise I’d have no clue who they were. You two are the ambassadors!! LOL. Delicious recipe, too…thanks for sharing it w/ the hearth and soul hop this week, Jo 😀

  55. Chris says:

    You are, Joanne, the mad kitchen scientist! I learned something because I’ve never tried anything except the arborio.

  56. Kim says:

    Sounds like a very scientific food trial 😉

    I like the nano rice the best too and stock up on it whenever I get the chance. Of course, you could put any risotto in front of me and I would happily eat it.

    I must confess to giggling over the idea of you juggling 4 pots of risotto – now that’s a handful!

  57. Joanne, this looks wonderful! Beautiful presentation and great flavors… I’ve got to step up my photography soon!

    Hope you’ll swing by and enter the CSN Giveaway that I’m hosting this week! 🙂

  58. Julie says:

    I love risotto! This flavor combination looks delicious. So these 4 pans of risotto were after your long run? You’re amazing!

  59. Reeni says:

    How fun! I can picture you juggling all those pans like a pro! I wish I was a lucky taste tester – the sun dried tomatoes sound a-mazing!

  60. Chef Bee says:

    Great information. I learned alot. Thanks for sharing.

    Plan B

  61. Johanna GGG says:

    cute servings and excellent research – but hope you have had it peer reviewed (ha ha) before posting

    I usually use arborio so was glad to see it did well in your testing

  62. Katy ~ says:

    I just took a book out of the library on Super Foods. Of course rice is among those listed but so are the other ingredients that you’ve listed. Sounds perfect and healthy!! Well done!

  63. Aurelia says:

    I love risotto but I never seem to make it often for some reason. Thanks for sharing that recipe, it sounds great 🙂

  64. tigerfish says:

    Let’s drink to risotto. 🙂

  65. RamblingTart says:

    You are amazing, Joanne. 🙂 Trying all these different kinds! I have never made risotto and wish I lived right next door to you so I could learn. 🙂

  66. Shannon says:

    oh no! i was pulling for the brown rice 🙂 LOVE your experiment, so well-controlled! were all the pans the same type? I’m guessing there could be differences in surfaces??

  67. Monet says:

    I wish I could have seen you over all those pots of risotto! Thank you for doing such a lovely experiment (everything you touch always turns out beautifully!) Now I will know which kind to buy when the risotto bug strikes. Thank you for sharing. I hope you have a wonderful Wednesday night!

  68. Rachana says:

    Love the way you have served risotto in glasses.

  69. Marjie says:

    I surely would love to have the time to just stand beside a pot for half an hour and stir it! But best of all, I’d love to serve my side dishes in pretty glasses like yours. My hungry hordes would toss me out in the snow for making them work so hard at eating!

  70. four different risotto rice!!! wow!!! ahem, i’ve tried making risotto once, but can’t stand the hassle…i wanna try the “leave-the-risotto-alone” oven method, maybe one of these days (if i had a penny every time i said “maybe one of these days…”)

  71. vanillasugar says:

    joanne – your recent comment had me in stiches. i too am very guilty of hoarding ice cream. too funny!

  72. Jess says:

    But did you submit this to a clinical trials registry? Because how do I know you didn’t change what outcomes you were measuring when you realised you weren’t going to get the result you want?! No psychiatry journal will accept this without the registry submission prior to experiment commencement!

    Although I guess the Journal of Rice & Rice Applications would be a bit more lenient…

    I need to do more RCTs with my cooking, I really do. Double-blind, preferably.

  73. Fantastic post, Joanne – so glad you sorted out for us which was the best rice for the risotto – you really took one for the team!! Love the idea of the sun-dried tomato and thyme combo for flavouring 🙂

    Sue

  74. Christy says:

    Joanne – who knew there would be a unanimous winner – and now I know what to make if I were ever to attempt risotto – and I will be sure it has sundried tomatoes and thyme in it! Thanks for sharing this with the Hearth and Soul Hop!

  75. Taylor says:

    You can’t argue with science!

  76. Catherine says:

    I love the little food challenge you created Joanne, it must felt like being on Iron Chef!
    Your post was very informative and interesting to read.
    Bottom line, you are not only a talented cook, but a wonderful writer as well. I love the dynamic approach you have when cooking. It truly is fabulous. Every dish you make just oozes with that incredible sense of enjoyment and creativity!

  77. MaryMoh says:

    Joanne, your are just inspiring! I would be out of the kitchen after cooking one risotto, but you cooked 4!! Love them presented in glasses 🙂 By the way, I have not yet tried risotto. I need to get down to trying it out. Thanks very much for sharing the 4 types of risotto rice. Didn’t know that there are so many types!

  78. Jo jo! As always a lovely read! I love how you made the risotto look like a bunch of cocktails! I adore risotto, but like you, if it is not creamy and dreamy what is the point? So? now I know which rice to pick next time I want to punish myself and make risotto! Thanks so much for sharing this on the hearth and soul hop! all the best and big hugs too! Alex

  79. Beth says:

    You are such an entertaining writer. I always love reading your blog. Don’t ever stop writing!

  80. Marisa says:

    Girl, you have a LOT more patience than I do! Four batches of risotto deserves a pat on the back.

  81. Ben says:

    Joanne, I must appreaciate you for your creativity. Keep it up.

  82. Xiaolu says:

    I’ve been trying to use up my remaining sun-dried tomatoes and I think I just found The Recipe. Thanks for testing all these out. Sounds fun!

  83. What an awesome experiment! I almost always use arborio but once in a while go for brown rice (if that’s all I have). I’ve never even heard of the other ones (how did that happen??) but now I’ll look out for the winner 🙂
    PS – your roomate is one lucky chicka 😉

  84. grace says:

    i love a good experiment. the scientist in me appreciates your work here. 🙂

  85. Deborah says:

    Now that’s my kind of experiment! I’ve only ever used arborio, so I’m glad to see it came in second!

  86. Alisa Cooks says:

    Wow, honestly I had no idea there were so many different types of risotto-worthy rice!

  87. Debinhawaii says:

    Very fun and an excellent trial. I want to try the winning rice for sure. I want you as a roommate. 😉

  88. elpi says:

    kids will love to eat this kind of risotto rice.

  89. Sharon says:

    I bet the sun dried tomato would have doe wonders to the flavor…

  90. I’ve only used the arborio rice in risotto- and it’s hard enough finding that in my small town! 🙂 What a tasty experiment! Aren’t you glad you could eat the results?

  91. Great post. I can only find arborio at the supermarket, and always love the results, so I was happy to see that you loved them too!

  92. How did you even eat four batches of risotto?!

    This is the first time I’ve looked at my Reader in a week. I have some serious catching up to do. I abhor interview season.

  93. Jennie says:

    Sundried tomato and Thyme…Yum! Great info Joanne! And your risottos are so purty!

  94. Haddock says:

    Presentation in different colours makes it more appealing.

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